[Taxacom] Oeder's intention - and Flora Danica

Ib Friis ibf at snm.ku.dk
Wed Dec 17 02:53:50 CST 2008

The valid publication of new names in Flora Danica was the subject of an analysis I published in 1996, concentrating on vascular plants (I. Friis, The Icones ... Florae Danicae ... (1761-1883) as a souce of names of flowering plants. - Symbolae Botanicae Upsaliensis 31(3): 7-25 (1996)). You can read more about the intentions of Oeder and their consequences in the above mentioned publication from 1996, although I did not cover mosses, algae, lichens and fungi. Particularly the fungi would have caused a lot of extra discussion, should they have been dealt with in my paper. 

Before I published that paper, I chaired a Special committee to modify the ICBN in order to deal with the problems in early post-Linnaean publications of non-binary scientific names. 

Relevant to the discussion about the names in Flora Danica is also the whole of Art. 23 in the ICBN, an Article which is not referred to in the discussion below.

Ib Friis
Narural History Museum of Denmark
ibf at snm.ku.dk 

-----Oprindelig meddelelse-----
Fra: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] På vegne af Algologia
Sendt: 16. december 2008 18:48
Til: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Emne: [Taxacom] Oeder's intention

Although algae were described and illustrated by numerous pre-Linnean naturalists such as Parkinson, Morison, Buxbaum, Dillenius, and Donati, it was in the monumental undertaking of the Flora danica that all categories of plants were depicted for the first time, since the date of publication of Linne's Species Plantarum that marks the start of botanical nomenclature (Portraits of Marine Algae, Mich.Univ., 2006). Flora danica was the major life work of Georg Christian von Oeder (1728-1791), and was planned to cover the wild plant life of Denmark, at that time extending all over the nordic countries facing the North Sea and Arctic Ocean. Oeder's ambition was enormous and naturally took its time - over a century. Between 1761 and 1771, Oeder edited the first 10 fascicles, where a total of 600 plates were published - each plate usually covering one species. Only twenty-six algae were included, which can be compared to the 191 species listed in Oeder's Enumeratio plantarum Florae Danicae (1770).

In presenting the various plants and the few algae in the first 3 volumes (plates 1-540), Oeder compiled extensively information attributing the known species to their authors. In most cases he is using binomials or trinomials marking the epithets in two ways:  
either placing the epithet between commas and a different fond, or between parentheses and a different fond. New entities introduced by him are relatively few (45), and reading his 'protologues' it is apparent that he was not ready with his own observations when he decided to send the manuscripts to press. His descriptions show a gradation striving a Latin text and the newly accepted binomial classification. They can be categorized hierarchically, as a:

1. German phrase (Tab. 215. 'Diese, mie mir deucht, neue, mit den Gattungen Lycopodium oder Fontinalis...'),

2. Latin phrase, non-descriptive (e.g. Tab. 540. 'Fungus difficulter ad ullum ...'),

3. Latin polynomial lacking epithet after the generic name (e.g. Tab.  
478. 'Bryum foliis striatis ...'),

4. Latin polynomial with epithet(s) after the generic name (e.g. Tab.  
472. Fig. 2. 'Lichen leprosus glaucescens ...'),

5. Latin polynomial with one epithet after the generic name; the epithet being separated by comma from the rest of the description (e.g. Tab. 468. Fig. 3. 'Lichen leprosus, albicans ...'),

6. Latin binomial where the single epithet is marked by commas (Tab.  
276. 'Fucus, ramosissimus, ramis, ...')

7. Latin binomial where the single epithet is marked by commas and a different fond (e.g. Tab. 356. 'Ulva, sobolifera, coriacea ...'), or

8. Latin binomial where the single epithet is marked by parentheses and a different fond (e.g. Tab. 409. 'Sisymbrium, (islandicum ?) siliquis...').

In considering which of these taxa in Flora danica are validly published, Fucus ramosissimus (example 6 above) is a critical case, and over the years authors have treated differently this name. As the epithet ramosissimus was not similarly marked (like other binomials), many considered F. ramosissimus to be an invalid name, but the fact is that the ICBN does not require the names in a publication to be similarly marked - only to be marked using '...any typographical device which associates an epithet with a particular generic or specific name' (Art.33.1 Ex.1). On the other hand, the lack of 'double' differentiation raises the question if this was an intentional choice not to accept this name (Art. 34.1). The analysis above shows rather the opposite: Oeder's intention was to provide Latin descriptions and binomials for his illustrated new species, but for some reason (presumably lack of time) he left many of his descriptions unfinished sending the entire manuscripts to press.  
Therefore, in considering which taxa in Flora danica should be accepted as validly published, the limits should be set by Art.33. Ex. 
1., which in fact distinguishes binomials from polynomials.

with best wishes for Christmas and the New Year,

Algologia: courses, books, reprints & taxonomic updates at http://


Taxacom Mailing List

Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu


The entire Taxacom Archive back to 1992 can be searched with either of these methods:


Or use a Google search specified as:  site:mailman.nhm.ku.edu/pipermail/taxacom  your search terms here

More information about the Taxacom mailing list